Google joins Microsoft, Cisco in Facebook’s Open Compute Project

Even a 600-pound gorilla needs friends. The mighty but previously standoffish Google today climbed onto the membership list of Facebook’s Open Compute Project, joining tech companies including Microsoft, Cisco, Samsung and Lenovo in a collaborative effort to improve computing infrastructure hardware. The group also includes companies from the telecommunications and financial services sectors. What ties the sectors together? Massive data collection, processing and storage needs.

Facebook launched the project in 2011 with an offering especially valuable at a time when the scale of data collection and storage was exploding. The social media firm open-sourced the design of a data center that took it two years to create and was the most energy-efficient in the world.  Intel, cloud-management firm Rackspace, Goldman Sachs and Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim made up Facebook’s four original partners in Open Compute.

“The five members hoped to create a movement in the hardware space that would bring about the same kind of creativity and collaboration we see in open source software. And that’s exactly what’s happening,” according to promotional material for the project.

Today at the Open Compute Summit in San Jose, Google announced it’s joining the project, and is working with Facebook on new open-source hardware, Wired magazine reported. The two companies are developing a rack to hold huge numbers of computer servers, and keep them juiced up with 400 percent more power than can be delivered in typical racks, according to Wired. That boost is important because the rise of artificial intelligence — which, for example, lets Google identify images and recognize words spoken into smartphones — has put powerful and power-hungry processors into data centers, according to the magazine.

So why is Google coming in from the cold now? “In the past, Google was mostly a company that offered Internet services to consumers. But now it’s intent on transforming itself into a cloud computing company, inviting a world of businesses to build and run their software on its vast online infrastructure,” the Wired article said. “That means Google is also interested showing the world what it has built inside its data centers—and currying favor among the larger tech community.”

Open Compute member Goldman Sachs has of late greatly increased its purchases of cheaper servers developed through the  project, the Wall Street Journal reported. More than 80 percent of the 4,300 servers Goldman Sachs has bought since last summer are based on Open Compute standards, the WSJ said. Goldman Sachs has more than 125,000 servers in its data centers, the newspaper reported.



Photo: Inside Google’s data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. (AP/Google, Connie Zhou, File)


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